They don’t refer to it as such, but many Christians teach a message of Dalmatian Theology, whereby the Bible is only inspired in spots and they are inspired to spot the spots. (Hat tip to the Baptist pastor who coined this phrase. )
Saying the Bible isn’t fully inspired by God may seem like a humble premise, but it actually makes several strong and unfounded claims.
It implies that God couldn’t or wouldn’t deliver His word to us in a reliable way, and that despite God’s alleged failings flawed humans are able to discern which parts were inspired and which parts were not. Are we to believe that humans are to correct for God’s alleged errors?
Why is this a serious problem? It is hard enough to follow the teachings of the Bible without having “Christians” pick and choose what they want to believe in. Worse yet, they ignore some parts of scripture so they can teach that the opposite is not only acceptable but desirable. Some may do it accidentally but others are just blatant false teachers. They have made up their own God and their own religion.
If someone claims the Bible is only partially inspired, ask a few questions:
- How did they come to this conclusion?
- Do they think their favorite verses are inspired? If so, how do they know? How about John 3:16? How about “love your neighbor?” Whenever “Judge not, lest ye be judged” is quoted, I never hear the liberal theologians insist that Jesus didn’t really say that.
- If the Bible is only partly inspired, how can they be sure that their preferred verses aren’t the ones that are uninspired and the ones they don’t like are the “real” verses?
- Why is it that God couldn’t inspire the original writings of forty writers, but He can inspire billions of people to properly determine which parts are right and which aren’t?
- If He couldn’t get Paul, Luke, Matthew, John, etc. to record his word accurately, how can He get you to do it?
- Why should I trust your “inspiration” over those who penned the Bible, or over my “inspiration?”
Here’s one I made up: Advanced Dalmatian Theology. It is just like Dalmatian theology, except God is also changing spots and adding/removing spots, and, oddly enough, He is only telling theological liberals and progressives. They use phrases such as “God is still speaking,” but they don’t mean He still speaks through his Word (that would be a true statement). They think He is still revealing new truths to the church and changing doctrines taught in the Bible. They may also say things like, “The Holy Spirit is moving in a new direction.” Indeed.
Here’s an example: A Methodist pastor named Laurie Hays Coffman did a pro-gay theology piece that made the argument that she wants to “unfurl our corporate sails to catch today’s winds as the Spirit blows afresh.” She said she was challenged by the vision God gave to Peter in Acts 10-11 where God makes it clear that the Gospel is for the Gentiles, too, and that the Israelites’ ceremonial dietary laws are no longer in force. Her reasoning is that in the same way that God overturned those laws that He is now overturning the prohibitions against homosexual behavior. The problem is her poor Biblical analysis. There are at least nine things wrong with this view:
- The person with the revelation was Peter, one of Jesus’ inner circle and a key leader in the early church. It wasn’t made to you, me or someone like Ms. Coffman. That doesn’t mean God couldn’t reveal something important like this to us, just that it is highly unlikely.
- The visions were clear and emphatic. Peter was given the vision three times.
- Peter was inclined to reject the meaning of the vision, whereas these Advanced Dalmatian Theologians have views on human sexuality that are virtually indistinguishable from the prevailing culture and they are glad to accept this “new revelation.”
- There was external validation for Peter from the Roman centurion.
- This lesson showed up in the Bible, not outside it. I’m not saying miracles don’t happen outside the Bible. It is just that things appear in the Bible for a reason. God communicating that the ceremonial laws had been fulfilled was one of those “big deals.”
- This vision overturned a ceremonial law, not a moral law. There are zero examples in the Bible of God reversing his moral laws. In fact, the more Jesus talked the stricter the laws seemed to get, because He emphasized the spirit of the law and not just the letter (i.e., lust was akin to committing adultery, anger was akin to murder, etc.). The dietary laws never applied to Gentiles.
- The “God has changed his mind view” is primarily being “revealed” to theologically liberal Christians in the U.S. . . . the very ones who often deny the authority of his Word to begin with! So we can’t trust the accurate transmission of the original writings but we can trust their new revelations? I’m skeptical.
- If God is revealing a change, why is it necessarily more liberal? Why couldn’t God make his laws more stringent?
- The Bible gives strong warnings not to add or take away from its teachings.
But the orthodox can fall prey to this in a more subtle way by claiming full inspiration but conveniently ignoring passages we don’t like. Consider this passage on church leadership, where some exaggerate “not given to drunkenness” to mean no alcohol whatsoever but ignore the “must manage his own family well . . .” part.
1 Timothy 3:2-4 Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect.
Another example is correctly teaching about the sin of homosexual behavior while neglecting to give proper emphasis to Biblical admonitions against divorce, adultery and fornication. We need to teach all of scripture with balance. Grandstanding on sins that aren’t temptations to us and soft-pedaling those that are is not an attractive or Christian thing to do.
There are plenty of reasons and resources to defend the accuracy and integrity of all of the original scriptures. We don’t need to get sloppy and just follow the parts we like.
I’ll close with some friendly advice: Don’t mess with God’s Word.
Deuteronomy 4:2 Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the Lord your God that I give you.
Proverbs 30:5-6 Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.
Revelation 22:18-19 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.